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A few points of light

Anne Owens
By Anne Owens
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday Apr. 30, 2002

Iāve been meaning to get to the top of a mountain before the galaxy moves just enough to change the night sky ÷ to make it to the top after sunset, or just before sunset, so I can watch the sun go down, and then watch all the visible planets come up over the horizon.

Rare and pointless events like this are easily poignant and meaningful if we look at them from the right angle at the right time. Maybe thatās why theyāve built an observatory on every hilltop around us. So we can climb to the top and find some meaning in what we canāt touch and attach it to the bits of life we donāt understand.

Itās probably not exactly what all the lonely astronomers with their bizarre passions and plastic pocket protectors intended when they had them built.

The planets wonāt line up like this again until 2040, when I am 58 years old.

The actual celestial event wonāt be spectacular ÷ a few points of light in the sky through a telescope, a few smudges through the corner of your eye. The trick to looking at stars is to look at them out of the corner of your eye.

I donāt expect to be amazed by seeing a little clump of planets all together, but I want to see them anyway. It makes a nice outing ÷ the top of a mountain at the end of the year with a reason to be there.

Iād like to pack up some peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and a thermos full of tea, and wind up some road to some lonely tower pointed at the sky.

Iād like to bring a sweater to the top of the chilly mountain where the stars are brighter than in the flood-lit valley.

You forget what cold feels like in the summer, and you forget what stars look like in the city.

Summers are stall times static periods of respite for the memorization of TV schedules and minimum-wage jobs.

I spent one summer selling Southwestern kitsch to overeager tourists in Kokopelli T-shirts.

ćDust is bad energy,ä my boss would tell me on busy Sundays. ćIf you donāt dust underneath that 70-pound trunk, people wonāt want to buy things when they come in. It doesnāt matter whether or not you can see the bad energy. Make sure you get it after you ring up this line of people buying ceramic chili peppers. Iām going to finish the word scramble. You can come help me when youāre done.ä

I plan on putting in a few applications as soon as school ends.

Summers are also times to germinate romantic notions, with the boredom and the heat.

An observatory should be a good launching point.

Maybe in 38 years, when I hear on the evening news that all the visible planets will be in a cluster over the horizon, Iāll remember how it was, almost four decades earlier, at the beginning of this summer.

Iāll remember that spring had begun to seem not like a celebration of new life but like an ominous warning of omnipotent heat in orange-blossom disguise.

Iāll remember hot days I spent a long time with my cheek pressed up against the cool mantle of the wall, and wished for any life I could live in the cold. Ice fishing, Eskimo kisses, searching barefoot in the snow for a potato, 12 degrees below zero, whatever ÷ as long as it was cold.

I might have some dim memory of coming home from almost the last class of my sophomore year, watching daytime TV and writing a column on deadline. Then, Iāll crank up the ćoldies but goodiesä station and let it take me all the way back.


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